Mar. 9th, 2011

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[personal profile] paradox_dragon
Translated from Japanese.

This is not the most dynamic book ever, but although I can't say it's entertaining, it's oddly compelling in its examination of the minutiae of everyday life. After Akiko's mother-in-law dies, she is left to balance her full-time job and disproportionately heavy domestic responsibilities with the care of her elderly, senile father-in-law, with whom she has never gotten along (mostly because he's a total asshole).

The framing of Shigezo's condition is really problematic--he's presented as a burden, and his behavior is often pretty grotesque, he's blamed for his condition because he was self-indulgent and didn't stay active, and there's a lot of talk about how old people should just die off already. Definitely centered on caregiver experiences. But there are also a lot of elderly characters (many with illnesses and disabilities) who negotiate and occasionally challenge that framework. And a lot of the conflict isn't Shigezo's fault, but originates from a system which, rather than making a place for him or others in similar situations, leverages gender inequality to force women into caregiving roles.

The writing gets a bit repetitive at times--over and over again Akiko and her husband talk about their own fear of aging, and Akiko's daily routine is pretty, well, routine. However, the characterization is deft, and the novel's examination of the social problems of an increasingly aged population is interesting. I can't really recommend it, but it's still an intriguing look at Japanese society in the recent past.

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